“Despite their self-perception as wise, mature, and sophisticated, Paul makes it clear to the Corinthians that they still have much growing to do. Their tendency towards quarrelling and jealousy is a sign of their immaturity. There is no place for such behavior in the body of Christ. When we allow ourselves to be divided by boasting, factions, or allegiance to specific leaders or teachers, it demonstrates that we have not fully understood the core principles of the gospel. When we view other churches as competition rather than as fellow laborers, we risk dividing the body of Christ and facing God’s judgement and punishment in our own lives.”
The gospel message may seem foolish or weak to those who hear it, but that’s how God often chooses to build his movement. Rather than seeking out the powerful or influential, he calls the weak, powerless, and foolish to proclaim the good news. In fact, the gospel was just as foolish to the people of Corinth as it may seem to those in Southern Ontario today. But despite its apparent foolishness, the gospel is just as powerful to save now as it was 2000 years ago. And he continues to spread His message and build His movement through unlikely individuals today. If we hope to faithfully proclaim the gospel, we must be willing to embrace this reality and not be discouraged by others’ perceived foolishness of our message.
Paul begins his letter to the Corinthian church by expressing gratitude for the grace of God that has been bestowed upon them through Jesus. Similarly, we have much to be thankful for in the Corinthian church, as it serves as a reminder that if God can work through a community as flawed and in need of grace as the Corinthians, then there is hope for us as well. This Sunday, we will delve into the context and significance of Paul’s greeting to the Corinthian church, exploring both the city of Corinth and the motivations behind Paul’s writing of this influential and relevant letter.
The world is an unsteady place. Our lives can be turned upside down in a moment. One event, one phone call, one diagnosis can shake us or shatter us. Sometimes God allows this shaking to reveal to us our own fragility and the fragility of the things we have built our lives upon. There are a few things we need to know when we are feeling shaken. First, while God may shake us God himself is is never shaken. Second, when God shakes the world, he does so with a plan and purpose in mind. Third, God’s shaking is ultimately done with the purpose of restoration and justice, God is working out a plan of redemption through Jesus that is our sure foundation.
Haggai was a post-exilic prophet sent by God to exhort the small community of Jewish people who had resettled in Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity and exile. The community that had returned, returned to a city in ruins and a temple that had been destroyed. Their initial excitement and joy at returning quickly turned into a struggle just to get by. In the grind of trying to rebuild their lives and eke out a living the worship of God and the rebuilding of his temple quickly fell off the radar. Yet, the harder they worked the harder things seemed to get. In the midst of this God speaks to the people through Haggai to tell them that their dissatisfied lives were a direct result of disordered priorities and that in order to experience the lives of flourishing they had hoped for they needed to start by putting God first. The message God’s people then is the same as his message to his people today. Disordered priorities inevitably lead to dissatisfied lives but a satisfied heart starts with centering ourselves on God.
We will be walking through John 11 & 12 and the story of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus and his resurrection. Looking at the various ways they said yes to Jesus and challenging us to make the coming year a time when we will live to say yes to whatever Jesus is saying.
Just the word is like a balm to our restless and weary souls. In a world filled with conflict and constant busyness many of us are desperate to find a little peace. At the birth of Christ, the angels came proclaiming “peace on earth,” and yet the earth seems anything but peaceful. However, just before his death Jesus doubles down on this promise of peace. In John 14:27 and 16:33 he promises that despite the troubles and tribulations of this world there is a peace available to us that transcends our current circumstances, a peace that can calm our fears, answer our anxieties, and steady our souls. A peace that only he can bring.
As we near the close of the book of Acts Paul is in Jerusalem defending himself once again, this time to King Agrippa. In giving his defense he boldly stands before Agrippa and shares his testimony. He shares his life before Christ, his credentials as a Pharisee and his own disbelief of Jesus and his participation in the church’s persecution. Then he shares his conversion, his encounter with the risen Jesus and how that encounter changed everything. Even as he stares down the possibility of imprisonment or even death, Paul is less concerned with his physical life and more concerned with the spiritual life of those around him. When Agrippa asks Paul “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul shares the heart that motivates the entirety of his life: “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but that all who hear me this day might become such as I am – except for these chains.” What motivates Paul to share his testimony, no matter the opposition or the cost, is that he shares the heart of God “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)
As Paul says a tearful goodbye to the elders of the church in Ephesus we see two things about his ministry and calling. First, we see that wherever God placed Paul for however long He placed him there Paul was fully present and invested. His life, lived out daily, gave testimony to the message he proclaimed. The second thing we see is that Paul didn’t hesitate to go when God had a new assignment for him, even when that assignment was likely to lead to his suffering and even his death. For most of us it’s easy to become slaves of either the future or slaves to our comfort. We’re either too busy thinking about what God might have for us later that we don’t invest where He has placed us now or we get so comfortable with where we are now that we aren’t obedient to Him when He calls us someplace new. We need to be a people who are fully invested in the mission of God wherever He has placed us now and fully ready to obey the call of God wherever it may take us in the future.
These two chapters mark a pivotal moment in the history of the church. Here God makes it clear to Peter and through Peter to the rest of the church community that the gospel is not just good news for Jews, it is good news for gentiles as well. In fact what we see throughout the pages of the New Testament is that when it comes to the gospel barriers and partitions that divide and exclude are broken down and destroyed. As Paul says in his latter to the church in Galatia: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This means all our old prejudices need to be put to death and all our previous identities are made secondary because of the supernatural unity we are given through Jesus.